THE FIFTY-FIVE BEST COMPILATIONS OF 2015-PART 1.

THE FIFTY-FIVE BEST COMPILATIONS OF 2015-PART 1..

The next stop in my look back at 2015, is the compilations released during the last twelve months. Again, I started with a long-list, and over the course of a few weeks, gradually, narrowed it down to fifty-five albums. That took some doing. After all, 2015 was a good year for compilations. The compilations are an eclectic selection, and cover an eclectic selection of musical genres. Theres’s something for everyone as I celebrate the best fifty-five compilations of 2015.

A GUIDE TO THE BIRDSONG OF SONG AMERICA. 

A Kickstarter funded A Guide To The Birdsong Of South America was the brainchild of environmental activist and music lover, Robin Perkins. For many years, Robin has been a keen bird watcher. Recently, he has become increasingly concerned about the problem with endangered species in South America. Something had to be done. However, Robin was only one man. After some thought, Robin decided that by combining two of the passions in his life, music and birds, he could raise awareness and much needed funds for the endangered species across South America. The answer lay in a Kickstater campaign, which resulted in A Guide To The Birdsong Of South America.

On the compilation, the musicians and producers use the recording of birdsong. Some put the recording at the forefront of their song, using it throughout the track. On other tracks, the recording places what can only be described as a walk on role. Regardless of which approach the musicians and producers take, the ten tracks are very different. Indeed, eclectic describes them. They are a representation of contemporary South American music. Essentially, A Guide To The Birdsong Of South America is an introduction to some of the most ambitious, innovative and inventive musicians and producers South America has to offer. One listen to A Guide To The Birdsong Of South America and you’re bound to agree.

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ALL ABOARD! 25 TRAIN TRACKS CALLING AT ALL MUSICAL STATIONS. 

In August 2015, Ace Records released All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations. This twenty-five track is described as: “25 tracks with a train theme or rhythm from across the musical spectrum.” There’s everything from blues, funk, gospel, jazz, pop, psychedelia, R&B, reggae and soul on All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations. Everyone from Rufus Thomas, Peggy Lee, Dusty Springfield, James Carr, The Shangri-Las, Chuck Berry, Luther Ingram, Neil Sedaka, Little Walter and The Ethiopians feature on All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations. 

It was compiled by Vicki Fox, who is responsible for the perfect compilation for anyone who likes their music eclectic. That’s almost an understatement. All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations which features: “twenty-five tracks with a train theme or rhythm from across the musical spectrum,” is a musical journey not to be missed

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AMARA TOURE-1973-1980.

Amara Touré’s recording career lasted just seven years. It started in 1973, and finished in 1980. His discography consists of just ten tracks. This includes three singles, and the four tracks on his 1980 album Accompagné Par L’Orchestre Massako. These ten tracks comprise Amara Touré’s discography. While that might not seem like much, but for seven years, Amara Touré released groundbreaking music. Thirty-five years later, and Amara Touré is remembered as one of the most influential and inventive artists of his generation. His recording career is documented on Analog Africa’s eighteenth release, Amara Touré 1973-1980. It features the ten tracks Amara Touré released during his all too brief career.  

That amounts to Amara Touré recording career. He recorded with songs with L’Ensemble Black and White and four with L’Orchestre Massako. These songs showcase a musical pioneer at the height of his career, as he fuses elements of African, Afro-Cuban and Latin music. He even adds elements of funk, jazz, soul and rock. This results in a tantalising musical fusion, one which is continually captivating. That’s thanks to Amara Touré and some of the best African musicians of their generation. They’re responsible for then ten tracks on Amara Touré 1973-1980, which documents the career of one of the best, but most underrated African singers you’ve never heard.

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ANNIE PHILIPPE-SENSATIONNEL! YE YE BONBONS 1965-1968.

Growing up in Brittany, Annie Philippe always loved to sing and dance. Sometimes, she dreamt of making a living as a singer. That looked unlikely to happen. Annie’s parents were what she described as “simple people.” They didn’t have a musical background. Nor did didn’t realise their daughter was talented. She was; and went on to enjoy a successful musical career.

Annie Philippe became one of Ye Ye music’s biggest stars. For three years, she epitomised the Ye Ye sound. A reminder of this is the music on Ace International’s recent Annie Philippe’s compilation Sensationnel! Ye-Ye Gems 1965-1968. This twenty-four track compilation is a reminder of an underrated and important musical genre, Ye Ye. It’s a  reminder of one of the most important, innovative and influential decades in history…the sixties. 

During this period, although there was a political, social, cultural and musical revolution throughout Europe. Especially in France. Between 1965 and 1968, Annie Philippe was part of the musical backdrop to the major upheaval was taking place in France. Annie Philippe’s music, which is documented on  Sensationnel! Ye-Ye Gems 1965-1968, epitomises the sights and sounds of the musical and cultural revolutions that took place during the sixties.

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BETTYE SWANN-THE VERY BEST OF BETTYE SWANN.

The Bettye Swann story was a case of what might might have been. She could’ve and should’ve been one of the biggest names in Southern Soul. That looked like being the case. Bettye Swann released her debut single Don’t Wait To Long in 1964. Three years later, Betty Swann was topping the US R&B charts with Make Me Yours. The future looked bright for Bettye Swann. Critics forecast she was about to enjoy a long and successful career. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Bettye Swann never scaled the same heights. Apart from a couple of minor hit singles, commercial success eluded Bettye Swann. Her recording career was over by 1976. In 1980, Bettye Swann gave her last concert. One of music’s most talented singers had called time on her career, aged just twenty-six. Her musical legacy included just two albums and a strings of singles.

A tantalising taste of Bettye Swann’s musical legacy can be found on The Very Best Of Bettye Swann. It was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. This twenty-four track covers Bettye Swann’s time at Money, Capitol Records, Atlantic Records and Fame Records. There’s even three previously unreleased on The Very Best Of Bettye Swann. It’s the definitive collection of Bettye Swann’s music, and without doubt is The Very Best of Bettye Swann.

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BOB DYLAN-THE BEST OF THE CUTTING EDGE 1965-1966: THE BOOTLEG SERIES.

Between 1965 and 1966, Bob Dylan released a trio of classic albums. This started with Bringing It All Back on March 22nd 1965. Just over five months later, Bob Dylan returned with Highway 61 Revisited on August 30th 1965. This became Bob Dylan’s second consecutive classic. Two became three when Bob Dylan released Blonde On Blonde on May 16th 1966. By then, Bob Dylan was one of the most successful and celebrated musicians of the mid-sixties. He was a musical chameleon, the folk singer who had plugged in, and divided music. Even today, critics and cultural commentators still debate what Bob Dylan’s eschewing his folk stylings and plugging in.

This debate started again, when The Best Of The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series, Volume 12  was released by Sony Music. It’s a two disc set that features thirty-six unreleased tracks recorded between 1965 and 1966. These tracks show how some of the songs on Bringing It All Back, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde took shape. It’s a fascinating insight to three classic albums.

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BOBBY GILLESPIE PRESENTS SUNDAY MORNIN’ COMIN’ DOWN.

One of the most eagerly awaited compilations of 2015, was Bobby Gillespie’s Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down, which was released by Ace Records. It featured twenty-five tracks especially picked by Bobby Gillespie. There’s tracks from the 13th Floor Elevators, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Tim Buckley, Alexander “Skip” Spence, Gram Parsons, Little Feat and Jerry Lee Lewis. Bobby Gillespie’s Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down is an eclectic soundtrack that one once have heard in the Gillespie household, on a Sunday morning after “a night on it.” Not any more. Bobby’s a changed man. His wild days are long gone. However, still, playing in the background in chez Gillespie on the sabbath, will be the music on Bobby Gillespie’s Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down.

For Bobby Gillespie’s Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down, the familiar and obvious have been eschewed. Instead, Bobby introduces some of music’s best kept secrets. This including the 13th Floor Elevators, Tim Buckley, Alexander “Skip” Spence and Gram Parsons. They’re still some of music’s bed kept secrets. Even when Bobby decides to choose a track by a familiar face, he reaches for a B-Side, album track or alternate mix. This results  in a captivating compilation full of musical treasure. There’s everything from folk, pop and psychedelia to country,  rock and Southern Rock. Bobby even chooses John Barry’s Midnight Cowboy. It’s a beautiful addition to the wonderfully eclectic Bobby Gillespie’s Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down. It showcases Bobby Gillespie’s impeccable musical taste, and shows that his formative years in Glasgow garnering a musical education in the city’s record shops and concert halls, was time well spent. The musical treasure chest that’s Bobby Gillespie’s Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down, is proof of this, and is awaiting discovery at your local record shop.

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BOPPIN’ BY THE BAYOU-ROCK ME MAMA! 

July 2015 saw Ian Saddler returns with the eleventh volume in the The Bayou series, Boppin’ By The Bayou Rock Me Mama! This eagerly awaited compilation was recently released by Ace Records, and is a meaty reminder of Louisiana’s illustrious musical past. No wonder. The twenty-eight tracks on Boppin’ By The Bayou Rock Me Mama! re from the vaults of J.D. Miller, Eddie Shuler and Floyd Soileau. This includes Jeff Daniels, Warren Storm, Joe Carl, Tony Perreau, Al Ferrier, Bennie Fruge, Billy Blank, Rocket Morgan, Johnny Jano and Collay and The Satellites. As a result, Boppin’ By The Bayou Rock Me Mama! was a welcome addition to the By The Bayou series.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Boppin’ By The Bayou Rock Me Mama! oozes quality. That’s the case from the opening bars of Jeff Daniels’ Switch Blade Sam, to the closing notes of Collay and The Satellites’ Little Girl Next Door. For twenty-eight tracks and sixty-five minutes, Boppin’ By The Bayou Rock Me Mama! transports you to Louisiana, where you enjoy the soundtrack the soundtrack to eighteenth state’s illustrious musical past By The Bayou. 

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CHANGE-REACH FOR THE SKY AN ANTHOLOGY. 

Part of the soundtrack to the disco era was recorded by studio bands. They featured mostly anonymous session musicians and unknown vocalists. Many of these musicians and vocalists were just at the start of their careers, including Luther Vandross. He was a member of Change, who released six albums between 1981 and 1985. That’s not forgetting a a string of successful singles, including number one singles on the US Dance charts. Despite the success Change enjoyed, their music is sometimes overlooked. Not any more.

In December 2015, Glasgow based label, Groove Line Records released Reach For The Sky-Anthology. This two disc, twenty-eight track extravaganza is definitive Change compilation. It features not just their singles, but 12” mixes and even a trio of unreleased tracks. They’re part of what’s a lovingly compiled compilation; that’s a fitting reminder of Change, one of the most successful studio bands of the post disco era. Their music was soulful, funky and dance-floor friendly. Much of it, is also timeless, and sounds as good in 2015, as it did back in the early eighties. That becomes apparent as you enjoy the two disc, twenty-eight track extravaganza that is Reach For The Sky-Anthology.

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CIAO BELLA! ITALIAN GIRL SINGERS OF THE 60S. 

Ace International’s first compilation of 2015 was Ciao Bella! Italian Girl Singers Of The 60s.  It’s described as “groovy girl-pop.” That’s the perfect description of the latest compilation of girl-pop. It features twenty-four tracks from some of the biggest names in Italian girl-pop. This includes Caterina Caselli, Catherine Spaak, Isabella Iannetti, Mina, Ornella Vanoni, Rita Monico and Wilma Goich. They’re part of an all-star lineup, which be tantalising prospect for connoisseurs of sixties girl-pop.

Ciao Bella! Italian Girl Singers Of The 60s will hopefully be he first of many volumes of Italian girl-pop. It’s  a welcome addition to Ace International’s discography. The music epitomises the sixties, one of the most important, innovative and influential decades in history. During the sixties, a political, social, cultural and musical revolution swept Europe. No country was left untouched, including Italy. Proof of this is Ciao Bella! Italian Girl Singers Of The 60s. This is a welcome release. Especially for anyone yet to discover the charms and delights of Italian girl-pop. For them, Ciao Bella! Italian Girl Singers Of The 60s is the perfect starting place.

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